Just days before Mississippi community’s pool was set to open, elected leaders suspend governing board, take over operations for the summer

Published 7:15 am Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Just days before a community swimming pool was to open for the summer, local elected leaders decided on Monday to suspend the pool’s governing board and take over the operations.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen and the Adams County Board of Supervisors each voted three-to-two to suspend the community swimming pool’s governing commission for this approaching swimming season and use current employees to operate the pool.

The county supervisors and aldermen will call the shots when policy decisions are necessary, according to the plan approved by both groups at a joint meeting Monday night.

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County supervisors also approved the hiring of a list of lifeguards, and the pool will open as scheduled on Saturday.

The community pool, located next to what is now Natchez Middle School on land donated to the project by the Natchez-Adams School District, has been without the benefit of a pool commission for about a year, because not enough of the members have shown up to meetings to make a quorum.

According to its current interlocal agreement, the county and the city each appoint three members to the pool’s commission.

County Supervisor Angela Hutchins and City Aldermen Billie Joe Frazier and Felicia Bridgewater-Irving said at Monday afternoon’s meeting that commission members stopped coming to meetings after a decision the commission made to allow alcohol to be served, sold or consumed when the pool is rented for private functions, was overturned by the city’s aldermen.

In June 2022, a flyer was disseminated on social media advertising an Adult Pool Party at the community pool. The person who was to rent the pool was advertising $15 wristbands for entry and said only people 21 and older were allowed. The flyer was decorated with what appeared to be alcoholic beverages.

Jimmy Ware, who has volunteered at the pool since it opened and was until Monday night the lone remaining member of the pool’s governing commission, said the pool board had changed its policy to allow alcohol to be served by those who rent the pool for private events.

Both county supervisors and city aldermen balked at that idea. On June 14, the city’s board of aldermen said any change in policy to allow alcohol would have to be approved by the county supervisors and the city’s aldermen, and no change had been approved. The city also asked for an audit of the pool’s finances. However, that audit has yet to take place.

Nonetheless, the pool’s commission apparently drew a line in the sand on the alcohol issue. Ware reported at the county supervisors’ July 18, 2022, meeting the pool’s governing commission voted unanimously to continue to allow those who rent the pool to serve alcohol.

However, no minutes of that board meeting have been located and it has not been determined what commission members were at the meeting at which Ware said the alcohol decision was confirmed.

Supervisor Ricky Gray at the time strongly objected, and said, “That isn’t going to work.”

After that, the city’s board of aldermen took action to enforce existing city ordinances, which do not allow alcohol on such public properties in the city.

Bridgewater-Irving said the pool’s city-appointed commission members stopped coming to the meeting because they felt “micromanaged.”

“Those commission members wanted an apology and they did not get one,” Bridgewater-Irving said.

Hutchins said Jimmy Ware had been a faithful pool volunteer and commission member and he should be allowed to continue.

Supervisor Kevin Wilson said, “He’s not going anywhere. He loves that pool. We are talking about him as if he isn’t here and he’s sitting right there.”

Ware hurriedly left the meeting after the vote and did not respond to a phone call for comment after the meeting.

Aldermen Sarah Carter Smith, Valencia Hall and Ben Davis voted in favor of suspending the commission for the season and allowing existing employees to handle day-to-day operations at the pool.

Supervisors Kevin Wilson, Wes Middleton and Ricky Gray voted in favor of the new plan for this swim season. Supervisors Warren Gaines and Angela Hutchins voted against the motion.